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Asia’s internet woes

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Thursday December 28, 2006 )

If you’ve noticed a dropoff in visitors to your web site from some from Asian countries in the last couple of days; there’s more to it than just the time of the year.

Nature seems to be slapping us around quite frequently of late, reminding us that for all our technology, she’s still the boss.

On Tuesday, an earthquake near Taiwan damaged multiple undersea fiber optic cables. This event seriously disrupted online and telephone communications between between Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and the USA. In some areas it may take weeks to repair.

I’ve just taken a look at Internet Traffic Report and it’s currently showing these scores for various providers in affected countries:

China (Shanghai) – 10
Indonesia (Mangole) – 0
Singapore – 0

The Internet Traffic Report service monitors how data is flowing around the globe; displaying a value between zero and 100, with higher values indicating a better, faster and more reliable connection. Japan and Taiwan seem to have rebounded pretty quickly, but for those in China, Indonesia and Singapore; accessing the web at this point in time could be at best slow and more than likely an exercise in futility.

Brrr.. 24 hours without the web; perish the thought; 48 hours, unthinkable.

A ship is headed to the area to do the necessary repairs, but after a journey of a couple of days, it will still take three to five days to fix each cable if there’s no added complications. The cables are located in water exceeding 10,000 feet in depth.

Whenever I’ve thought of these cables, I’ve always imagined them to be fairly hefty lines; thicker than my leg; but it turns out they are a mere two-thirds of an inch in diameter. Amazing how much data can be pushed along such a small pipeline and somewhat unsettling on how dependent we are on these thin cables. In many ways, they carry the weight of the modern world.


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